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The Philippine Star : Major, major

News & Interviews
25 December 2021

By Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. | The Philippine Star

If elections were held today, the nation may get a majority president. According to Pulse Asia, this is the first time ever that their firm has recorded a majority preference with the 53 percent of Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. (BBM) in their Dec. 1 to 6 survey.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the Philippines has never elected a president with more than 50 percent of the vote. It’s uncommon for a presidential candidate to have such a sizeable voter preference, given the several options to choose from. Multiple choice candidacies are supposed to be the prescription for mere plurality votes. The tightly contested 1992 elections had President Fidel V. Ramos winning with only 23.58 percent. All subsequent post martial law presidents had final vote tallies hovering around 40 percent. The highest rating was that of the late President Corazon C. Aquino who won 42.08 percent of the vote.

The last president to win with a majority was the first Ferdinand Marcos. In the era of the two-party system, this wasn’t rare. Several presidents before had easily managed majority wins.

Strategy, strategy. Everyone wishes a majority vote but no one realistically attempts it. Scale considerations compel the targeting of only enough to carry you over the perceived strengths/bailiwicks of your opponents. Plurality is hard enough to manage but is good enough to win. Candidates try for majority at the peril of spreading out their finite resources too thinly.

Of course, if you’re strong across the board, the calculus changes. You don’t even need resource infinity. BBM’s early dominance will affect the overall game plans of the other candidates. If their original campaign playbooks prove ineffective, they may have to rewrite and adopt more reactive strategies.

Elections are still five and a half months away. The campaign proper hasn’t begun (officially). A runaway, majority bandwagon win is possible. All the negative campaigning vs. BBM throughout his career and up to today has scarcely succeeded in stalling momentum.

Conversely, the survey result could also be the spark to make the journey more interesting. So far, taking the matter out of the hands of the electorate has been his opposition’s first option, through the petitions to disqualify or to cancel certificate of candidacy.

For such efforts to be successful and acceptable, however, they need to be resolved in a clear and convincing manner. They bear the onus of being anti-democratic, especially as they target one backed at present by more than 50 percent plus one. The petitions are perceived as attacks not just against his candidacy but against the people themselves. The sense is that they’re being stripped of the prerogative to decide at the instance of partisan efforts to benefit another candidate. Always, a fair fight decided in the ring will be preferred over one with the result predetermined outside it.

Relief operations. Last Thursday, my mom Marichu P. Maceda would have been 79. I find myself thinking about her a lot lately. Charge it to her birthday, her beloved Christmas season and also the tragedy of Typhoon Odette.

Her health required a slowdown of activity in later years but when she was strong, Mom would inevitably be involved with calamity relief efforts. If not initiating or leading them, she’d be sure to participate meaningfully or find a way for her contribution to reach those in need.

Her generation had a strong sense of responsibility for those who had less in life. A tradition of public service meant exposure of all, even the youngest in the family to disaster relief.

In our teens, we had already been trained in the “art” of organizing drives, ensuring efficient assembly lines with our motley crews and the orderly distribution of goods. At the Mayon Damayan 1984, I had to learn to drive a passenger bus to deliver relief goods through Albay roads strewn with volcanic boulders larger than houses. I was 20 years old. In catastrophe settings, you see deprivation, devastation, desolation and despair. The utter helplessness of the victims. We could not possibly know the gravity of the misfortune they endured but the conditions they suffered in the aftermath were truly challenging.

One of the stalwart lessons of the pandemic is just how much we need each other. Collective effort is critical to weather challenges larger than ourselves. However difficult it has been for all of us, let’s keep everyone else, especially the most needy, in our thoughts.

Vaccine watch/countdown. With one week remaining in 2021, we are still only at approximately 42 percent with complete vaccinations. Even with the downgrade of targets to mere 50 percent population protection, we won’t get there by Dec. 31. The past week’s daily average slowed down to 729,483 doses when we needed to do at least a million a day.

DOH case bulletins continue to provide us, though, with encouraging developments. The virus has been contained for the past 10 days, with positivity rates averaging at 0.92 percent. That Bloomberg Resilience Ranking which had us dead last in consecutive releases, now has us jumping three spots with our easing of restrictions and higher vaccination performance. But we brace for the worst, even as we deservedly relish the respite of this suddenly safer season.

WHO continues to push for the more equitable expansion of vaccine coverage around the world. The roll out of boosters, they argue, just prolongs the pandemic. Boosters by definition are given to those already vaccinated. Vaccines totaling enough for a 40 percent full coverage in ALL countries have gone out globally but distortion in supplies have resulted in their iniquitous distribution.

The statistics are startling. In lower income countries, not even 10 percent of their populations have been jabbed. With almost a year into the worldwide vaccination roll out, 3 out of 4 health workers in Africa remain unvaccinated.

The scores remaining unprotected allows for variants to evolve and mutate. Truly, “we will not end the pandemic anywhere until we end it everywhere.”

Merry Christmas to all our readers!  May we be showered with good health and blessings in the coming year and the opportunity to serve higher purposes.